United Way brings Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to Longview

United Way brings Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to Longview
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 12:15 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 8:30 PM CST
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - Well over a million books a month are being delivered to families with young children across the world thanks to Dolly Parton. But her Imagination Library needs the help of local non-profit agencies to make it work, and that’s about to happen in Gregg County.

Executive Director of the Greater Longview United Way, Evan Dolive, and Board Member Erika Rader, say they’ve been aware of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for some time, and realized it was needed in Gregg County.

“It wasn’t until I joined the Greater Longview United Way Board and this really became a possibility that I started learning more about it and the importance of having it in our community,” Rader said.

“The United Way is the affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. So, we are responsible for signing kids up, disseminating the information about how to sign up, and paying for the children when they sign up for the imagination library,” Dolive said.

It costs United Way about $26 a year per child, so it’s free for families who sign up. They have separate fundraisers to pay for that:

“To help offset the cost of this so it doesn’t take away from our campaign,” Dolive said.

Erika says there are about 7400 eligible children in Gregg County and so far over 700 families have signed up for free books.

“As long as they have a Gregg County address and the child is under the age of 5, then the books are shipped directly to those families,” Rader said.

“To date they’ve given out over a hundred and ninety-seven million books worldwide,” Dolive said.

That’s since its inception in 1995.

“There are about 15,000 students in Gregg County alone that live in what are called book deserts. And a book desert is a home or a neighborhood that does not have access to printed reading material,” Rader said.

She says that can put a child a million words behind their peers by the time the child gets to kindergarten. Any Gregg County family with kids age 1 through 5 are eligible for the program.

“It helps every child have a good start through literacy,” Rader said.

Their Imagination Library Launch Party is Thursday January 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Books and Barrels in Downtown Longview.

The program is about to kick off in Longview thanks to the United Way.